University of Kansas Field Station

Research

KU Field Station researchers conduct an impressive range of research in ecological and environmental science. Research has included studies of behavior, physiology, morphology, reproductive biology, pollination, genetics, predator-prey interactions, host-pathogen relationships, habitat requirements, and community and landscape ecology. Likewise, research is ongoing on the physical environment--soil, air, and water--including the relationships between organisms and ecosystems with resources (nutrients and water) and pollutants. Funds for research and development at the Field Station come from KU and multiple other sources. Field Station scientists are highly successful in obtaining grants from such groups as the National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, United States Department of Agriculture, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, United States Geological Survey, and several Kansas agencies and the private sector.

A complete list of KUFS research is available here.

Featured Research

This project explores how the stoichiometry of available resources, activation energies of substrate decay, and adaptive microbial physiology influence the temperature responses of substrate decay. We also are exploring how pH and temperature, and exo-enzyme age and temperature, interact to drive substrate decay rates and associated flows of liberated C and N.  This avenue of research will help us understand the temperature sensitivity of soil organic matter decomposition, and ultimately will be useful for predicting CO2 release from soils in a warmer world. We have developed a theoretical framework based on these ideas, useful for understanding how microbial allocation ...

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This research is investigating the ecological role of plant viruses in grassland communities with a focus on Panicum virgatum (switchgrass), an important C4 prairie grass.  This species is planted widely (e.g., prairie restorations, Conservation Reserve Program land) and is being seriously discussed for biofuel applications.  This research has two major thrusts:  1) experiments to explore the effect of viruses on switchgrass survival, growth, and reproduction, and 2) landscape-level surveys to study the prevalence and variability of viruses in grasslands across eastern Kansas.  This work contributes to a larger understanding of the role of pathogens in ecology and evolution and ...

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This research investigates the habitat needs of state-threatened animals associated with eastern deciduous forest. As remaining forests continue to be lost to urbanization and agriculture, the identification of remaining habitat has become increasingly important. This project will employ three approaches: field studies to identify remaining populations and habitat parameters of two species (smooth earth snake and redbelly snake), development of a GIS-based map of original forest cover from 1850s Public Lands Surveys, and conducting ecological niche modeling to predict areas of occurrence for four species (smooth earth snake, redbelly snake, broadhead skink and spring peeper).

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The KU Field Station is slated to play a role in the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). The National Science Foundation created NEON to establish a network for collecting ecological and climatic observations across the continental US, Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico. Data obtained by NEON focus on how land use, climate, and invasive species affect biodiversity, disease ecology, and ecosystem services. Twenty core (eco-climatic) NEON sites were selected; the "Prairie Peninsula" site is based at the Konza Prairie (Kansas State University). The KU Field Station serves as a satellite site to Konza and will host a tower equipped with ...

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Mead's milkweed is a rare plant of the tallgrass prairie that currently is found primarily in eastern Kansas and Missouri.  Most populations are very small, but the University of Kansas Field Station manages two prairies (Rockefeller Prairie, Anderson County Prairie Reserve) that have some of the largest populations in Kansas.  Since 1988, studies at the Field Station have explored the population dynamics, herbivory, and seedling establishment of this species, which often is used as an indicator of prairie quality.  This research has led to a deeper understanding of the ecology of Mead's milkweed and has illustrated ways to ...

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KU scientists are exploring how to use domestic wastewater to turn algae into a biofuel that could power cars, trucks, and airplanes. The multidisciplinary "Feedstock to Tailpipe" research program at KU considers all steps in the process--from algal biomass production, to biomass harvesting, to biofuel production and testing. The algal production team is composed of Dr. Belinda Sturm (Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering) and Dr. Val Smith (Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) and Dr. Jerry deNoyelles (Kansas Biological Survey), who are using mesocosms located at the KU Field Station and at a wastewater treatment plant to study ...

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Researchers are combining ethnobotany (cultural use of plants) and chemistry to identify naturally occurring medicinal compounds that can be used in marketable natural remedies, health-care and cosmetic products, and veterinary treatments. This project, overseen by Dr. Barbara Timmermann (KU Department of Medicinal Chemistry) and Dr. Kelly Kindscher (Kansas Biological Survey), is being funded by a five-year, $5 million grant from Heartland Plant Innovations, Inc., a for-profit entity created to receive support from the Kansas Bioscience Authority. The KU Field Station provides a field site for growing plants, where factors such as water and nutrients can be adjusted to test their ...

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